Andrew Miller – You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink – You, Me, Something Else – GOMA – Forum for Critical Inquiry – 2011

It is hard to look at Andrew Miller’s work, You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, without being reminded of Michael Craig-Martin’s seminal piece, An Oak Tree (1974). Craig-Martin’s work similarly contained a glass of water, however his sat on a glass shelf. He used the semiotic argument that his work was in fact an oak tree; the piece was barred from entering Australia, as the customs department believed it to be real organic matter. On the other hand though Andrew Miller has taken clear influence from Craig-Martin, the message of Miller’s work seems to be the opposite of An Oak Tree. The title of the piece, You can takes a horse to water but you can’t make it drink is an old idiom which means that people, like horses will only do what they have the mind to. Therefore in the context of the work, Miller is saying that although you can claim something is completely different to what it actually it is, people will still remain unconvinced and make their own judgement.


This concept of a deceit and the fine balance between truth and fiction is literally represented in the artwork. The work consists of a sheet of glass that has wedged a glass full of water against a wall. It is hard when you first view the work to configure whether the glass is stuck to the wall or the sheet of glass, as it seems impossible that it could be supported whilst full to the brim with water. However the glass is in fact perfectly balanced, by doing this Miller has highlighted the natural tendency of humans to doubt something immediately rather than just accepting it. This concept refers back to the title; as a result Miller is saying that if we chose to believe what we wish through continually doubting it could lead to a false belief. Consequently people are more inclined to believe that the glass of water cannot be merely balanced therefore there must be some form of duplicity when Miller’s work is actually as it seems.


By mimicking Craig-Martin, it could be claimed that Miller is using the concept of post-production in contemporary art. This idea is one where previous artworks or thoughts are recycled and reinterpreted by modern artists, often where the piece and the concept is modified. Applying this notion to Miller’s piece he has clearly drawn much from Craig-Martin’s work but changed the aesthetic by using a sheet of glass instead of a shelf and transformed the idea behind the work. In this sense Miller is exploiting the reference of An Oak Tree to make his work more explicit in its meaning. This concept of exploitation is one that is often made when thinking of post-production, where many artists that use it as a concept are described as DJs, in other words not actually being creative but reusing someone else’s creativity. However in the case of Miller I would argue that although there is a clear element of post-production in his work he demonstrates creative skill to be able to articulate his idea but also create a work that on a basic level is aesthetically pleasing.


Focusing away from the message of the work, the design and appearance of the work is very effective. The fact that the sculpture is made entirely of clear tones creates a sense of calm and fluidity, as it seems to be lacking a strong centre or overtly solid form. The design of the piece references minimalist ideas in sculpture due to its simplistic form and clean presentation. As part of the unobtrusive design Miller uses clear geometric forms, this may remind the viewer of artists such as Richard Serra who also used simple shapes. Serra used the scale of his work to interact with space and cut through it to create a new form within the area. Although Miller’s work interacts with the space it is quite a self-contained work so the exhibition area is not a key factor in the piece unlike Serra’s work. In addition through the use of material and the structure Miller makes it clear to the viewer that his work is a contemporary sculpture. By doing so it aids the observer in contextualising the piece within art history without any uncertainty over which era of art it was created in.


In conclusion Miller’s work is incredibly effective both in its ability to subtly question the process of contemporary artists, particularly in reference to the meaning of their work, but also in creating something aesthetically beautiful.



You, Me, Something Else, GOMA, Information Booklet

Glasgow Sculpture Studios Website

Andrew Miller, Glasgow International Website

Sculpture Since 1945, Andrew Causey, Oxford University Press, 1998, page 119

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